Disney’s America, another canceled park
Here’s a strange question. Have you ever played Bioshock Infinite? One of the levels of this game actually pays homage to a Disney theme park that never came to be, fitting for a videogame based on alternate realities.
The park in question is Disney’s America, which Eisner’s team announced in 1995. This year was a troubling one for the company, as Frank Wells died suddenly in a plane crash. He and Eisner complemented each other perfectly. Without his friend, Eisner became a less competent executive, and this park is proof-positive of it.
Disney intended to construct a patriotic theme park in Haymarket, Virginia. It’s a location roughly 30 miles away from the Manassas battlefield from the Civil War. The company loved the location near Washington, D.C. Conversely, outside observers (understandably) expressed horror and outrage at the thought of a theme park near such a significant historical site.
From the time of the announcement, park officials believed that they could have Disney’s America operating in three years. Instead, Disney spent the body of a year fighting negative headlines from media sources around the country.
Eventually, a worn-out Eisner dropped the plans for a $650-million educational history lesson. This idea would have never worked and shouldn’t have gotten out of the blue sky phase.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom does the impossible
During the Disney Decade, Eisner could claim four real successes, one of which we still haven't discussed yet. The film division is the first, while DVC is the second. The third is undeniably Disney's Animal Kingdom, the theme park of Walt Disney's dream.
Uncle Walt had loved the thought of live animals at Disneyland. More than 30 years later, Imagineers finally fulfilled that wish the creation of this park, which I maintain is the most impressive one in the history of the industry.
Take a trip through Animal Kingdom today, and you’ll discover a roller coaster with a mountainous yeti, a time-traveling dinosaur attraction, and an imaginary journey to another planet. As you walk to and from these rides, you’ll notice other attractions, ones with live animals in or near their natural habitats.
Other parks have mimicked this concept, but Animal Kingdom towers above the competition. Not coincidentally, this gate is the second-most popular one at Walt Disney World. It might qualify as the greatest achievement of Eisner’s tenure.
Hong Kong project begins
This theme park is somewhat difficult to quantify. It didn’t open until 2005, but Eisner negotiated the agreement with Hong Kong officials during the Disney Decade. In fact, both parties announced the project in 1998. It would take the body of seven years to finish the challenging construction.
Disney officials had to navigate political and social issues in addition to physical ones. And the company was broke throughout a lot of this timeframe. For this reason, the cultural significance of Hong Kong Disneyland gets somewhat counteracted by the disappointing nature of the park. It’s cheaply designed and wholly lacking in Disney standards.
Fifteen years after its debut, park officials are finally addressing its shortcomings. However, I still have to grade this one as a wash at best.